or: “Eaten Alive”.
While cannibal movies never make too much sense, Umberto Lenzi’s ‘Eaten Alive’ set a new standard for complete nonsense. The story is a mix of other more or less popular plots – in the mandatory opening scene (city lights, streets full of civilized Americans, elevator music), a native kills three random guys with cobra poison, then gets hit by a car and dies. As a result, some other random guys start an investigation about these murders and find out that they are related to a purification-back-to-nature cult. The random blonde, Sheila, is involved because her sister probably follows this cult, lead by a hairdo named Jonas, and currently located in the jungle of New Guinea. So she goes there, hires the local Vietnam defector Mark and tries to find her sister. The camp of the cult is deep in the jungle, and surrounded by cannibals. Yadda yadda.
It just gets more pointless as usual because only 50 % of the shown scenes are related to each other. The other half is completely random, and mostly taken from other movies, too. Almost all animal snuff scenes were originally made for other movies, also the infamous castration scene and a mutilation/cannibalism scene.
The related scenes in itself are only so ‘logical’ either. Cult leader Jonas, for example, has a drink that makes people obey him, and only him. Half his cult members, while refusing technology and everything ‘civilized’, wear watches and the camp also has a speaker and obviously a radio or record player.
Then we have a few ‘explicit hardcore’ scenes – according to the backcover. The sex scenes are actually the most unbelievable in grindhouse history. They are not even what the trope ‘Ikea Sex’ describes. They are plain bad and can – each of them – be summarized as “1 minute, woman spreads, man crawls onto her, man comes, done”. This applies to the ritual involving a widow getting laid by her late husband’s three brothers (in this case, all three finish the job within a minute, and that doesn’t mean a minute each) as well as the rape scenes.
However, as bad as the movie is – there are a few notable scenes that are quite nicely done.
Smiling at birds is a very underused yet great idea. In ‘Eaten Alive’, there is a lot smiling at birds. Whenever Sheila, Mark, or anyone else tries to sneak past a hostile person, this hostile person will hear a strange sound, turn around, spot a bird (owl, parrot), smile at it, and move on with whatever they were doing. I especially like the early scene where some cannibals eat a victim, hear the voices of Mark and Sheila, one cannibal looks up, spots an owl, smiles and continues to eat.
Then, the name giving eaten alive scene is surprisingly well done. Sheila’s sister and a native girl get caught by cannibals and eaten alive, including some close ups of mutilations and pieces of flesh. Here is where it paid out to steal all other budget-intensive splatter scenes from other movies.
However, despite all its flaws, this is rightfully a classic of the cannibal/jungle hell movies – because of all these flaws. Its a picture perfect example for cheap shock entertainment, though it would probably be advisable to not watch it right after the movies that were – pun – cannibalized for it.